Today’s author interview will be with the wonderful JM Ames. Each of his stories are different in genre and plot, but his unique writing voice remains the same. From the first story I read by him, I was a fan. He’s one of my favorite writers, and I’m honored to call him a friend. Now to the good stuff!
What is the first book that made you cry?
Beautiful Joe’s Paradise by Marshall Saunders
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
Both – same with low self-esteem. You should have doubts, you should assume the worst, that your MS will get rejected – but you should move forward anyway. Write until you cannot look at it anymore. Get it in front of as many Beta Readers as you can. Submit to every publisher that fits the genre. Expect a 98% rejection rate, but don’t let it stop you. You don’t want to be overconfident, or the rug will be pulled out from you pretty quickly, and unexpected falls always hurt the most. Cockiness doesn’t sell books either. Be humble, be grounded, be confident.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure, but it may hamper you a bit. Emotions are a big part of connecting with the reader, but if you excel in all other areas (senses, plot, believable characters, etc) you may succeed. I find it hard to believe anyone does not feel emotions strongly. Maybe they are buried, maybe your armor is so thick you cannot expose your heart – but the best writing will come when you do.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?
The best example I can think of is Stieg Larsson, author of the “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” series. The first book in that series has a very difficult beginning. The first couple hundred pages bored me to death, but I stuck with it as others told me once it gets going, it is great. And they were right.
Another one would be Shakespeare. As a teenager in high school, being forced to read his works (in Olde English no less) was very tiresome. A few years later, I fell in love with his works, as I had the chance to read many more of them.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
Fourth grade was when I learned the hard way that words CAN hurt you, if you let them. I also that year discovered the power of comebacks (to save face) and humor (to dodge confrontations).
What does literary success look like to you?
Being able to write full-time while still supporting my family. I’ve no need to be rich or famous.
Of all the characters you’ve ever written, which would you rather spend the day with, and what would you do?
What’s your favorite color?
It would be cheating to say Max, the canine narrator of ‘The Last Ride’ (in A Journey of Words) as that story is nonfiction. Probably Ajir, the mining Minotaur in ‘The Snow Bride’ (in Mirrors & Thorns). He’s a Work Hard, Play Hard kind of fellow that I can relate to in that way.
What’s your favorite food?
Extra Sharp Cheddar. This is why I’m not skinny.
What is your favorite TV show?
I hate to conform to what is popular, but right now it is Game of Thrones. Love the books, so happy when the show came to be.
Ideal date night?
Should start at the beach. A walk on the sand, along the pier. Ending at a nice, long, candle-lit gourmet meal, complete with red wine of some kind. Conversation is essential. The most important things in relationships are communication, compatibility and trust.
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Night, by light-years!
Where do you get your ideas?
The one thing I never have a shortage of is ideas. They just pop in – sometimes by an event or scene I see, or a song, or a writing prompt. Sometimes they just appear in my head. It might be just a scene or vague plot or distinct character. Once it just popped in my head in the shower, fully formed. I find the ones that occur naturally end up being the most fruitful.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Women have historically been shortchanged in our society, and unfortunately even today are not quite treated equally. While I can see and understand that, it is from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve not been in that position, so I don’t quite know what it is like. The same can be said for other female-only experiences. The entire birthing lifecycle, from sex as a female, to pregnancy and having a new life form inside you, to birth, to nursing. I will never know what that is like from the mother’s perspective. Aside from those things, people are people.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I’ve already given up most of the things I can. My family always comes first. That includes paying the bills, which means keeping the Day Job. I rarely watch TV or movies these days, and I can’t remember the last time I played a video game or did anything just for my own enjoyment. If I am not working or doing other family obligations, I am writing. I wish I could give up more.
If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I would have used more of my spare time writing, that way I wouldn’t be a brand-new writer at 40. Aside from that, nothing. I think a very important part of being a good writer is life experience. I definitely did a lot of wild and unconventional things as a youth, and I regret none of it. It all made me who I am today, and gave me a wealth of experiences from which I can draw to make stories.
Music or silence?
Music before, silence during. Music I find very inspiring, but I enjoy it so much it distracts me from writing. For that, I require silence.
If a fan wanted to send you mail, where can they send to?
How did you begin writing?
I can remember writing my first story at about five or six. I tinkered with it for most of my life, but never took it seriously until January of 2016. I was forty years old, and recent personal events really had me thinking about mortality, and how we never know how many days we have left. A friend of mine had asked me what the one thing is I wish I was doing that I wasn’t. I said “writing.” He asked why I wasn’t, and I had a handful of excuses, which were really nothings. All these things spurred me to start. I’ve had the idea for my planned series Destiny Reborn for decades now. Since I want this to someday be my crown Jewel, I decided to cut my teeth writing shorter works. Which is where I am at now.
Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions, or similar events?
Whenever I can, yes!
Any events coming up?
Yes. I will be joining my anthology-mates in a signing of Beach Reads 2: Lost and Found, the anthology containing my short “Blind” in or around May, 2018, at the Laguna Beach Books bookstore, oddly enough in Laguna Beach, CA.
What are you working on now?
I am currently working on a Brazilian environmental horror short tentatively titled ‘Tatu-Bola!.’
Here is an excerpt, if you want it 😛
“Adalgisa burst through the jungle and stumbled onto a brown-stained beach. Her wild eyes blinked at the churning sea of fetid cacao that the Atlantic had become. Acrid vapors that wafted from it seared her eyes and nose. Bitter bile rose and burned her throat. Sweat and blood mingled and trickled into her eyes. Every panting breath fanned the fire that raged in her lungs. Her legs trembled from the exertion of her frantic marathon through the thick foliage. Her entire body felt aflame.
She screamed as the trees behind her snapped and crashed to the Earth. The ground shook as it approached. She sprinted left, to the north.
Maybe I can make it to Mucuri, she thought. Maybe I’ll be safe there.
Her big toe cracked to the side as she tripped on something stiff. Lungs emptied of air as her chest slammed to the ground. Adalgisa lifted her head to find herself face-to-face with the rotted remains of an over-sized sea turtle. Empty eye sockets stared back at her; its beak hung crookedly agape.
She scrambled to her knees, but froze when an immense shadow blocked the setting sun’s light.
No other creature was close enough to hear her cries of agony cut short with a gurgled crunch.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I have a completed flash fiction story called ‘Thankful’ out on the market now for a publisher – A young man working retail on the eve of Black Friday experiences the real world has a string of bad luck.
“This obese woman, with the fatally aromatic halitosis, is screeching in my face about the price being off by a bank-breaking fifty cents. Her vile spittle mists my glasses. The vapid lady behind her is on her smart-phone, chattering a thousand miles an hour in some foreign language. Her snot-nosed brat pilfers candy from the shelf, putting half-eaten chocolates back before grabbing more to stuff in his face. The snakish line of mindless sheeple is reminiscent of the cars jockeying for gas back in the seventies. Today we are to express thanks for our loved ones and our cherished possessions, but these lobotomized lemmings practically eviscerate each other to get the latest, shiniest must-haves at a slightly reduced price. It isn’t Friday quite yet, but the Blackness is already here.”
I am wrapping up a few shorts already mostly completed before moving on to longer works:
‘Not Yet Dark’ – When his four-year-old daughter is brutally slain before him, a father goes to extreme lengths for vengeance.
“When I found my daughter in the still-smoking rubble, her left leg was missing. Nothing but shredded ribbons of bloodied flesh and a shattered stump of bone remained.
Agonized screams pierced the air all around me, but I barely heard them. Dust and smoke stole the air from my lungs, but I hardly noticed. All my attention was on her; nothing else mattered. I lifted her with care, brushed her silky black hair behind an ear, and kissed her forehead.
“You’re fine, it’s going to be okay,” I lied, trying my best to smile.”
‘Waves’- When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Marcia lost her father. She spent the next four years trying to honor his memory. “She heard the booms before she crested the hill and witnessed hell in paradise – the harbor was burning. The great battleships were aflame; holes ripped in their sides, like gaping wounds of giant sea beasts after a long, bloody battle. Black columns of smoke pierced the sky. Sailors scrambled around the docks, like frenzied ants whose hill has been kicked. Distant cries of anguish and anger swirled together and washed up the hill. Her hope receded as the certainty of Jack’s death seeped into her heart. Her knees buckled and she collapsed in a sobbing heap.”
‘The Californian’ – A bomb scare at LAX during her layover unexpectedly puts Cecile in an overnight stay at the run-down The Californian hotel. Unfortunately, her room is already occupied…
“A soft thud from the bathroom banished all thoughts from her head. She was on her feet almost immediately, ears straining. A nearly inaudible hiss of something sliding along the bathroom floor raised goose bumps on her arms and hairs on the back of her neck. Her bladder threatened to release the pressure that had been building since the flight.
Cecile grabbed a lamp from the bedside table and crept to the bathroom door. Her wobbly knees threatened to buckle. She pressed her lips tight to smother the chattering of her teeth. As she was almost upon it, she heard the shower curtain being pulled open. Her insides filled with ice water, and she yelped in fright before she could stop herself.”
‘Phil’ – Melissa Brown’s struggling Beauty Salon has a change of fortune once a fate-changing rhododendron is given to her by a mysterious man.
““I’m sorry, you sell philodendrons? I don’t see any plants here except that.” she said, pointing behind him to a small bamboo plant that shared a folding table with a waving cat figurine, an open box of cigarettes, and a single business card.
The elderly man shook his head almost imperceptibly. “Bamboo not for sale. ‘Dendron for sale, fifty dollar. I deliver to you. Very special deal for you today. Very special ‘dendron. It what you need.” he winked.”
‘Letters’ – An antique file cabinet purchased from an estate sale contains a series of letters detailing a tragic WWII-era love story.
“I’ve written you more times than I can count, every letter crumpled and tossed in the general direction of the wastebasket in the corner. There’s no point in sending them when they all boil down to “I’m sorry, I miss you.” If reading those words gouged holes in your heart anywhere near as deep as the wounds writing them ripped into mine, sending these letters would be just another selfish act on my part. I think you’ve had enough of those.”
‘Ursa Major’ – My first novel. A middle aged man struggles to make sense of the sudden deaths and disappearances of all his childhood friends. In the process, he pieces together his own broken past, and discovers something more terrifying than he thought possible.
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‘Destiny Reborn’ – A 5-novel series. A band of villagers embark on a quest to unravel the history behind an ancient artifact they’ve discovered. When they finally get the answer, and even bigger mystery opens up. Each book puts the ever-changing cast on a new adventure across a new land, until they find the final piece of the puzzle, and the history of their world is revealed.
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Where can we find more of your work?
You can see my current publications here: https://jm-ames.com/published-work/
… and my upcoming publications here: https://jm-ames.com/coming-soon/